Nostalgia: Ocean City, NJ

Honestly, I’m not typically one for nostalgia.  I tend to forget a lot of my childhood, not because it was bad and I need to block it out.  Quite the contrary.  I think I don’t remember because it was actually really good, and quite frankly, my life has been so far.  My low points have all been caused by my mind, which has been difficult and confusing but as I have become more and more aware over the years the low points are much more fleeting.  My childhood fears were all created in my mind. Nonetheless, I forget things.  I tend to live them and move on.  Don’t get me wrong though, I will have moments of nostalgia and re-live great memories. I just don’t live in those memories, in the past.

One of those moments of nostalgia hit me while driving down the Garden State Parkway the other day.  The Garden State Parkway, in South Jersey, has always been a drive that I have loved.  In the summer the north and south bound highway is lined with lush green grass and trees, that just always seem so vibrant.  For some reason, the vibrancy of the green nature is so apparent and appealing to me on this road. I used to drive down this road a lot more when I was younger, but not as much in recent years.  The vibrancy hit me that day, and I actually took my sunglasses down a few times to make sure it wasn’t just the lenses creating this intensely loving green.  I also noticed wildflowers growing in the middle.  I love wildflowers.  Kait, Weston and I were on our way to Ocean City, NJ for the week. Weston’s first vacation and beach experience.

Side Note: I despise driving on the Garden State Parkway in north Jersey.  I try to avoid it as much as possible when we go to visit Kait’s family.


So, while driving, this nostalgia hits me.  In the ’90s my family took vacations to the Jersey shore town of Ocean City, most years of that decade.  For at least five or six of those years, my Mommom would rent a house for two weeks and two to three families, plus her, would jam into this tiny house (typically with three bedrooms).  It would be anywhere from 9-13 people. I actually just found that my parents alternated weeks with my aunt and uncle. Strange because I really only recall everyone being together. Those were great trips, hanging out with my cousins all day every day.  Especially my cousin, Chris.

We went to the beach pretty much every day to play in the water, sand, skim board, boogie board, wave surf, and chill. I would always want to leave early when I was young. I used to love going back to an empty shore house, eating, showering, and sitting on the balcony while no one  else was around.  I needed my alone time even when I was young.  However, before I was old enough to go to the house myself, I was forced to just stay on the beach.

I remember when my cousin, Danielle, was born.  She is about eight years younger than me, so we would help lug all of her stuff back and forth the five blocks or so to the beach.  Now, on this very day that I was driving down the shore, my now 26 year old cousin got engaged.  And now, I am driving my wife and five week old son down the same very town, luging all of his necessities with us.  Though we try to be minimal, he still needs stuff.  The bassinet for the stroller is so damn big.

For whatever reason, my Mommom stopped renting the houses, but my parents continued for a couple of years.  Those years I was allowed to bring friends down with me, we were now in middle school. The last summer that we did it was probably 1999, the summer before freshman year of high school.  The one thing I vividly remember about that summer was driving in my sisters boyfriend’s car, they were about three and a half years older, with my friends and really being introduced to Bob Marley for the first time.  Bob Marley continues to be one of my favorite artists of all time.  His songs still hold a tremendous amount of meaning today, as the issues he sang about are still extremely relevant…unfortunately.  When I was younger, I never fully understood why No Woman, No Cry was one of his biggest hits.  I don’t think I ever really listened to the lyrics and I really only ever heard the live version from the Legend album.  However, a year or two ago I read So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley.

So much things to say really introduced me to understanding Bob Marley and his music much more than I ever had before.  I listened to his albums, all of the originals, like I never had before.  Listening to the Natty Dread album, I heard the studio version of No Woman No Cry, and I got it.  It blew me away.  I must have listened to the first songs of that album over and over for weeks: Lively Up Yourself, No Woman No Cry, Them Belly Full (But We Hungry), Rebel Music.  But especially No Woman No Cry, and usually Them Belly Full, because it went right into it and the message is so poignant.

So, No Woman No Cry, especially that version, for whatever reason, has become one of my favorites.   The song is a story about living in Trenchtown.  Bob would make corn meal porridge to share with people on the government yard observing the hypocrites of the government. Georgie would shoot the fire lights, or fireworks.

Side Note:  So Much Things to say is a book written about Bob Marley by people who knew him.  The author knew him and he interviewed many people who did, so it is their version of Bob and his life.

Anyway, so I’m driving down the Garden State Parkway with Kait and Weston, listening to the radio.  We hardly drive, so we do tend to listen to the radio when do.  I put on WXPN, the NPR station in Phila., and No Woman No Cry is playing.  The full on nostalgia feelings hit me.  It was a beautiful moment.  XPN happened to be doing a 1975 day, where they were playing all songs from that year.  (That may have been when the live single was recorded and released.)  XPN took us into Ocean City, with The Band followed by Bob Dylan taking us over the 9th street bridge.

After that last summer with my family in 1999, this is the first full week I will have spent down at the Jersey Shore since then.  20 years later, whoa.  I had been down the shore many times since then.  Through high school, college, graduate school, and into my mid-late 20’s.  Ocean City is a family oriented dry town, so we didn’t go there much.  Instead we went to the more party friendly towns of Sea Isle and Avalon, mostly.  My friend’s parents also had a house in Brigantine, so that was frequented too.  I would go down for weekends, maybe long weekends but that’s about it.

Kait’s family always spent a few weeks of their summers in North Truro, Cape Cod, so we do that every other year now.  I have become more familiar with the Cape, which I love too.  It’s much more rustic, we see foxes and even a coyote running down the middle of the street last year.  I love taking day trips to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard. And we enjoy take the short ride to Provincetown many days of the week. Cape Cod is full of character, nature, and simple living (though it is extremely expensive).

Newer houses that all look the same.
Bungalow style with character!
Bungalow style with character!

Cape Cod and the Jersey Shore are very different.  These southern Jersey shore towns have become so built up over the years.  Many of the older smaller houses have been replaced by pretty generic looking large houses made with composite plastic materials with similar aesthetics. Some of the old Victorians remain, but many need serious rehab. Houses have been crammed into every possible nook and cranny.  The new houses lack the character of the old, in this new error of waste and money grubbing.  I heard that there is a conflict in Ocean City that people want to tear down the 90 year old amusement park on the boardwalk, Wonderland, to put up condos or something of the sort.  That would be terrible. To me, it would ruin what the Ocean City boardwalk is all about.  The energy would completely change.

Gillian’s Wonderland Amusement Park

The first evening, after West went to sleep, Kait and I took a walk to the beach and down to Wonderland.  I used to love that place as a kid.  It had all of the fun rides that we got to do once or twice in the weeks that we were down.  I knew it wasn’t the biggest amusement park, by wow I didn’t actually realize how small it was until we walked through it that night.  The rides all look so small!  Especially when compared to Disney and Universal parks, which we have frequented more as of late.

Side Note: I’m a ride junky.  I love them all!  I always say that roller coasters are like a shot of awareness, they just take me right there to that happiness.  And I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter and Walt Disney, so I love it all for the creativity and visionary work.  But, like the boardwalk in Ocean City, those places suffer from the lack of health and

Riding this tiny coaster with my niece, who is hardly visible in this photo.


I used to love going to the boardwalk as a kid.  The Ocean City boardwalk is lined with stores packed with everything you never need and don’t want a day or two later.  Restaurants are almost exclusively tasty but unheathy food, like the delicious Kohr Bro’s soft serve ice cream, Curly’s fries, and endless pizza shops (Manco & Manco, most famously).  Each of the aforementioned have 2-6 locations in about a one mile stretch.  Stores are full of plastic.  Plastic wrapped in plastic, wrapped in plastic.  Nothing here seems to be done with a thought about the Earth, other than getting an ocean view.  As the hoards of visitors each stroll about each day for hours on end, they are contributing to the destruction of the very thing that brought this town and them here in the first place….the ocean.

We will indulge in some of the “food” such as the ice cream, play some mini golf, and maybe even buy a longboard that I’ve been looking to start riding again.  Watching the trends of the youth is always fun and interesting.  This year, all of the girls are wearing the over-sized Rasta Baja Hoodies that have been around forever.  The boys are inland suburban kids emulating the beach bum surfer culture of the West Coast with a very East Coast style, walking down the boardwalk with a bluetooth JBL speaker loudly playing some new hiphop that happened to be dropping a lot of fucks as they rolled by us.  I recognized the song and voice but still can’t place the artist, damn!

Kohr Bros. Classic – Vanilla and Orange Sherbert twist
The Minimalist Wave X Sector 9 Longboard

In quite the juxtaposition, this boardwalk that I had always had love for is a platform for these stores, the food, the containers, merchandise, and people who are all things Kait and I now actively work to avoid for their impact on our Earth and on our desired life experiences.  We just wished that other people cared too, because then something would change and we could still all enjoy the same experiences.

Example of a boardwalk store – Plastic, Plastic, Plastic….

Perspectives change so much with experience.  The more I observe and explore the experiences for life, the more I love it all.  This is why traveling is so wonderful. This is also why life is so wonderful, especially when we can live in the now instead of in our past.

I enjoyed that moment of nostalgia, but this week down in Ocean City is very different than those times.  This is special in its own way.  I love them both and what I had learned back in the ’90s helps me make this moment even better for Kait, Weston, and me.  This time we are in a house with my family: my parents, my sister’s family, and us.  Six adults and four children all under four and a half years old.  Will we do this every year? Most likely, no, unless we are able to afford traveling more often.  But this is a great holiday for our first with Weston, to prepare us for upcoming trips to Charleston and US Virgin Islands — that is where we decided to explore next.

The only thing missing from this trip, is Avett.  Dogs are not welcome in the rental house, but we left him in great hands.  Leaving him is always the hardest part of traveling, but we left him great people where we know he’ll be happy – very cousin that I shared a lot of these memories with, Chris and his wife, Noelle.)

Avett, knowing we were up to something when we packed to leave

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